Book Review: vN by Madeline Ashby

On July 30, 2012, in Book Review, Cathy Russell, by Catherine Russell

In vN, Madeline Ashby tells the story of Amy Peterson – an android little girl from a mixed synthetic/organic home. Her mother and herself are Von Neuman androids – self-replicating robots, while her father is human. Despite the differences between her and other children, Amy grows up loved and well cared for – until the day her android grandmother crashes her Kindergarten graduation. When Amy rushes to her mother’s defense, the confrontation ends with Amy consuming her adversary. Her innocence ends and her life is changed forever.

The Von Neumann machines – or vN for short – have lived alongside humans for years in a world where Asimov’s three laws of robotics are never mentioned. Rather, all the androids have a fail-safe that causes them anxiety and eventual shut down if they see a human come to harm. But the fail-safe has broken – at least for Amy – and everyone wants a piece of her. In this case, quite literally.

This bizarre book combines robot cannibalism with a horrific coming of age story. Amy’s adventure takes her through parts of her society that she had never dreamed existed, and the age-old questions present themselves over and over again. What is the nature of free-will? What does it mean to truly be a person? Or even, what does it mean to be a family?

The action almost never stops, and the characters must face ever greater dangers. Will they survive? And if so, how? Those are the questions that keep the pages turning, because the characters are so compelling and real, torn between desire and danger, loyalty and safety. Their emotional depth took me completely by surprise.

There was honestly nothing about the book I disliked; I adored it all – from the bizarre beginning, through all the action, horror, and gut-wrenching twists, right until the very end. Since this novel is Book I of the Machine Dynasty, I’m eagerly awaiting its sequel. In my opinion, vN is one of the best and most original robot books since Asimov.

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6 Responses to Book Review: vN by Madeline Ashby

  1. Thanks, Cathy. Yours is the second positive review I’ve seen of it so far.

  2. Tim says:

    Thanks for sharing, Cathy. I started this book a month ago, but the beginning had such a close pov of a very alien world that it was hard to understand and easily get into. This could be because of starting the book at the end of my day, but did you feel the same way? If so, does it clear up soon after?

    • Actually, I found it easy to get into, even though the world was so bizarre, because it began with Amy’s family. I could identify with the family situation, even though part of the family were robots. That’s what drew me in, and then after I got used to the oddness, I didn’t have any trouble with the learning curve. That was part of why I loved it.

      • Tim says:

        Thanks for sharing, Cathy. I really like the premise, so it helps to hear that someone else enjoyed it and that it wasn’t hard to get into. I’ll give it another shot.

  3. Ellie says:

    This looks great! I’ve read so many great reviews of this already. Now I really have to read it. :)

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